Christians: What does the Bible say about marriage?
In Genesis 1 God declared what He made “good,” except for the man and woman, which He declared to be “very good.” The only thing that we are told is not good before sin and the fall is Adam’s being alone.1 Even in a sinless state we were made for human contact, friendship, and love. Even though Adam had God above him and creation beneath him, he lacked an equal with whom to be in community, one who would enable him to function like the Trinity in covenantal partnership as “one.”
God’s answer to Adam’s lack was the creation of Eve as Adam’s wife and helper.2 It is important to note that the word helper does not denigrate Eve; in fact, God is also referred to as our helper.3 The first woman was taken from the side of the man, which beautifully illustrates that she belongs alongside him in partnership, not behind him in denigration (as chauvinism teaches) or in front of him in domination (as feminism teaches). It may also explain why cuddling alongside her man is the favorite pastime of many a bride, as it is for her a sort of homecoming. Though the woman was taken from the man, in the sexual consummation of the marriage the two again become one.
While God is not engendered, he does reveal himself as Father and comes to us as the God-man Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, he makes both men and women in his image. Practically, this means that though they are in some ways different, the man and woman are equal in dignity, value, and worth by virtue of the fact that they are equally God’s image bearers.
Important to note is that God created the covenant of marriage; thus, he alone defines what it is. His definition of one man and one woman, husband and wife for life, as one flesh, eliminates the alternatives such as bestiality, homosexuality, fornication, polygamy, adultery, and the like. At the first wedding God in his sovereignty brought the woman to the man, gave her away as her Father, and officiated the ceremony as their pastor. Upon seeing his bride for the first time, Adam responded to her beauty by singing her a song. The poetic words Adam sang to his bride on their wedding day are the first recorded words of any human being.
Genesis 2:24 then explains how a man can overcome his state of being single that is not good. First, a man should leave his parents’ home and be his own man. Second, a man should marry a woman he loves and who loves him and loves the Lord. Third, their marriage should be intimate in every way including sexual consummation, and they should spend the rest of their life becoming “one” as the Trinitarian God is “one.”4 Both Jesus and Paul repeat this process throughout the New Testament as the pattern God intends for marriage and sexuality.5
In an age where there are cultural battles raging about gender and marriage, it is very important for God’s people to see these issues from God’s perspective.
An important aspect of the biblical creation account is God establishing an order to the covenant of marriage and organizes the family with the husband as the leader and head. This is evidenced in five ways:
- God creates Adam first and then brings Eve to him.6
- The woman is helper meaning she joins her strength to his to accomplish God’s command to work and guard the garden which was given to Adam first.7
- Although the woman sinned first, God came calling for the man.8
- It is Adam’s sin that is imputed to the human race because he is our head, and that sin can be removed only by Jesus, who is called “the last Adam.”9
- Echoing the creation account of our first parents, the Bible repeatedly declares that husbands are to lovingly lead their homes as Christlike heads and wives are to submit to their husbands.10
This biblical interpretation does not mean that a husband is in ultimate authority. God is, and other authorities are over the man, such as the state and church governments. Nor does it mean that a wife does not have independent thoughts or seek to influence her husband, or must obey her husband’s command to sin, or is less intelligent or competent than her husband. This does mean that a husband and wife are equal with complementary roles (like a left and right hand that work together). It does mean that wives are to submit to their husbands like Jesus does to God the Father, that husbands are to lovingly lead their wives as Jesus does the church. Like Jesus emotional discussion with the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, wives give their feelings, desires and trusts to their husbands.11 Like the Father responding to the groaning of His people, husbands hear, remember the covenant, look on, are concerned for, and come to help their wives.12
Practically speaking, a single woman should only marry a man she respects and trusts enough to follow because God’s love flows through him to her. And, Christian marriage is supposed to reflect something of the Trinity and the gospel, where Jesus pursues us in love and takes responsibility for us as an example to husbands and fathers.
Tragically, however, sin has caused much pain and misunderstanding surrounding this teaching, culminating in what some have even called the gender wars or the battle of the sexes. God declared to our first parents that there would be conflict between men and women. God told Eve that rather than trusting and submitting to her husband, she and her daughters since would want to rule over their husbands, like sin sought to rule over Cain (the same language is used to describe both situations).13 For Adam and his sons since, it was promised that everything under their dominion would be cursed and would fight against them; providing for their families would be a cursed experience designed by God to humble men and provide insight into how difficult it is for God to be his head when he is disobedient.14
Since God created and defines marriage, why is it important that Christians understand and maintain the biblical definition of marriage?